Thursday, 21 January 2021 09:01

Google forcing users to Chrome after appearance of Edge

Google forcing users to Chrome after appearance of Edge Supplied

ANALYSIS Google's recent move to limit the use of its APIs in Chrome, such as Chrome sync and Click to Call, appears to be driven by the launch of Microsoft's Edge browser based on the open-source version of Chrome, known as Chromium.

A notice issued by Google on 15 January said during a recent audit, it had found "some third-party Chromium based browsers were able to integrate Google features, such as Chrome sync and Click to Call, that are only intended for Google’s use.

"This meant that a small fraction of users could sign into their Google Account and store their personal Chrome sync data, such as bookmarks, not just with Google Chrome, but also with some third-party Chromium based browsers," it said.

Apart from Edge, Brave and Vivaldi are the two best-known browsers based on Chromium, with the former having its own sync. There are numerous others which are also based on Chromium.

Google's statement that "We are limiting access to our private Chrome APIs starting on March 15, 2021," is surprising given that the company had allowed the builders of Chromium for the various Linux distributions access rights to these very APIs back in 2013.

According to Tom Callaway, who packages Chromium for the Red Hat community distribution, Fedora, this access was "specifically so that we could have open source builds of Chromium with (near) feature parity to Chrome".

Callaway, who posted a long tweet thread about the change, added: "The reasoning given for this change? Google does not want users to be able to 'access their personal Chrome Sync data (such as bookmarks) ... with a non-Google, Chromium-based browser'. They're not closing a security hole, they're just requiring that everyone use Chrome."

Among all the browsers that have been built atop Chromium, only Edge has the kind of possible userbase that will take users away from Chrome. And for a change, Microsoft has built decent software at the very first go; the company normally needs at least three tries before it puts out packages that are usable.

Google often proclaims that it has a commitment to open source but that seems to be governed more by its commercial interests than anything else. This move is in keeping with that.

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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